It’s her fault

My friend  Laura Ellen Scott posed an interesting question at the end of a blog post a few months back. The question was what does your family/community think of what you do, and does that affect how you write?

My mom isn’t crazy about my writing. Don’t get me wrong: she does the best she can when reading my swear-leaden prose which conflicts directly with her Southern Baptist morals. She encourages my art, but can’t avoid saying things like “I’m not crazy about the language”.

I don’t write things she disagrees with on purpose. It’s my muse’s fault.

My muse is a foul-mouthed, white-trash sadist. Think 1990’s Courtney Love, only Southern and into pills instead of heroin.  I don’t mind a bit. I made peace with her a long time ago. The problem lies with some of my loved-ones.

Trouble-maker
Trouble-maker

My mom asked me to send her a copy of my next book with all of the “bad language” blacked out with a marker. I happily agreed. It’s a compromise I can live with, even if it my integrity suffers a little. Mothers are worth compromising integrity for now and again.

Really, it's no problem. It's not like I mind censorship or anything. I mean, what writer does?
Really, it’s no problem. It’s not like I mind censorship or anything. I mean, what writer does?

I have tried to tone it down, to write things more suitable for my mostly conservative family. But the writing reflected my restraint, and that wasn’t okay.

My community of friends and writers aren’t as squeamish about foul language, fornication and overdoses. They accept that my muse would never be invited to sit on the PTA. But I am not my muse. I’m just a writer.

Cancer scares and tattoos

Last autumn, my cousin and bestie-since-birth Chris had a terrible health scare. And by terrible, I mean TERRIBLE. He dropped thirty pounds in about two months because food became his body’s enemy. There were a lot of tests, and plenty of talk about all the types of cancer it could be. It was terrifying for me. And probably him, too.

It turned out to be celiac disease. While we were still enjoying the warm, glowing relief of finding out that his condition was easily treated, my own health took a strange turn. I was soon on the receiving end of a biopsy.

I, too, turned out to be cancer-free. But anyone who has gone through a cancer scare knows that this process is not quick. You have weeks and sometimes months to wonder if your ending is just around the corner. Or maybe not your ending, but a severely reduced quality of life for the next year or so.  Either way, it’s really freaking scary to not know if your own body is turning against you. And when you’re not sure if you have cancer or not, you  realize how many TV commercials are for cancer treatment centers or cancer drugs.

 

Weeks of pondering Chris’s mortality and then my own changed my perspective on a lot of things. I wondered what I would wish I had done differently if I was about to find out that I was really sick. I realized that either way, mortality was real and applied to me just as much as everyone else.

I knew I would wish I had spent more time with people I enjoy, instead of making plans we eventually cancel.

I knew I would wish I had made a habit of meditating and spent more time practicing yoga, neither because I “should”, but because they enhance my daily life.

I would wish I had spent more time writing, and writing with love for my craft instead of resenting it like something I have to do.

 

I would wish I had watched more movies. Good movies, bad movies, doesn’t matter as long as they tell me a story.

Of course there are more wishes, but you get the idea. Chris and I hopped on one of the wishes right away and got the besties tattoos that we had been considering for ages. And they’re fabulous.

As Chuck Palanhniuk put it, “On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

It is human nature to die, my friends. And I have decided to remove regret from my future. It’s liberating to face the realization that we are all dying. Let’s all go out with as few “I wish I hads” as possible.